VBPD chief: Mass shooting independent investigator erred in saying they had no access to shooter’s computer

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Investigators hired to independently look into the mass shooting at Virginia Beach Municipal Center assured the public more information on a motive could come from access to the suspect’s personal computer.

The problem is, they already had it.

Last Tuesday, during a city council update regarding the city’s mass shooting recovery, Police Chief Jim Cervera said that there is no truth to the Federal Bureau of Investigation having a “personal computer” from the gunman that police don’t have access to.

“Every piece of equipment that [the suspect] has, we either have the physical custody of or we have the mirror of,” Cervera clarified a week later in an interview with 10 On Your Side.

The statement is quite opposite from those made from Arnette Heintze and Debra Kirby of Hillard Heintze back on November 13, 2019.

On that day, Hillard Heintze released their 262-page report into the events of May 31. Their goal was to find the “why” behind a city engineer’s shooting spree that killed 12 people and seriously hurt four others at Building 2 at the city’s Municipal Center.

After a 16-week probe, the review team concluded, just as the police department had several weeks before, that they could not pinpoint exactly why the attacker did what they did.

However, the Heintze team suggested all hope was not lost as there could be relevant additional information uncovered on his computer.

“The subject did not leave a manifesto, at least to our knowledge as the F.B.I. has his personal computer,” Heintze said, as part of a question and answer session. He cautioned, more could come out.

Cervera again said he doesn’t find that likely.

“I don’t think the FBI is going to find anything that we don’t have,” Cervera said.

Cervera explained that while the FBI is assisting the police with their review of the shooter’s documents and devices, their focus is on a thorough forensics review of the crime scene.

“I don’t think this is something [Hillard Heintze] did specifically,” Cervera said. “I think it happened from miscommunication.”

Reached Tuesday, Hillard Heintze declined to comment on the report.

However, City Auditor Lyndon Remias confirmed the error.

“They did have access,” Remias said. “They admitted to us they made a mistake and apologized.”

It’s a disappointment that also disturbs Attorney Kevin Martingayle, who represents one of the victim’s families. He was one of the louder voices that called for the outside investigation in the aftermath of the shooting and criticized the report’s initial claim that investigators didn’t have some computer access.

“Have they explained why there is this failure? Why would they have said that?” Martingayle asked upon hearing the news.

Martingayle said he wasn’t sure whether the miscommunication discredits the Hillard Heintze report, but it does cast doubt on if the job is done.

“Did the city get what the paid for? … Someone needs to come in from the outside and finish this,” Martingayle said.

He is now throwing his support for having another investigation completed, this time by the state.

“We may never know why,” Martingayle said. “But we need confidence that we exhausted every avenue.”

In the meantime, the City Council will be receiving a briefing from staff on their analysis of the report next month.

Tune in to WAVY News 10 for more coverage and stay up-to-date through the WAVY News App and on WAVY.com.

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